A video that shows two black men being arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks has drawn national outrage and prompted an apology from the coffee giant’s top executive.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson on Saturday expressed his “deepest apologies” to the men, who were arrested Thursday after refusing to leave the coffee shop because they did not make a purchase.
An employee accused the men of trespassing.
Johnson hoped to “make things right” by having the Seattle-based company review its policies to prevent similar situations from unfolding in the future.
Meanwhile, Johnson said he plans on traveling to Philadelphia.
“I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology,” Johnson said.
The two black men were waiting for a third person for a business meeting, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, when a store employee said they were trespassing and called the local authorities.
“Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome,” Johnson wrote. “The basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”
Police commissioner Richard Ross defended his officers who made the arrest, which were captured in a viral video viewed more than four million times. The commissioner said the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong” and acted professionally.
Ross, who is black, said he’s sensitive to race-related incidents.
“As an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing,” he said.
Still, he said officers had acted according to protocol.
“If you think about it logically, that if a business calls and they say that someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business, they (the officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties. And they did just that,” Ross said.
The Inquirer reports the duo was released from custody early Friday, citing their lawyer, Lauren Wimmer.
“The video speaks for itself,” Wimmer said in a statement, calling the arrest “reprehensible.”
“Two young black men, who were simply waiting to be joined by a friend, were blatantly discriminated against based on their race,” she wrote. “Not only is this inexcusable. It’s illegal.”
Another video shows Alan Yaffe, the third party to the meeting and a real estate professional, challenging the arrest.
“What did they get called for?” he asked. “Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me? Tell me, what did they do?” Jaffe is heard saying.
“I wanted to get coffee for two black guys sitting and meeting with me,” he says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks other cafe patrons.
“It is ridiculous. I saw it,” a woman can be heard saying.
“It’s clearly discrimination,” Yaffe adds. Police replied that the men were “trespassing,” which Yaffe disputed.
Other Starbucks customers say they didn’t witness the men causing any trouble.
The two men were led out of the cafe in handcuffs and released on lack of evidence that a crime had been committed.
Police are conducting an internal investigation into the incident.
With Nicole Hensley, News Wire Services
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